By To the editor:
Democrats in Washington, D.C. are trying to push through massive changes to federal labor law that will hurt local businesses, workers, and communities across the state. Legislation misleadingly known as the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (PRO Act) would disrupt employer-employee relations while undermining the ability of local businesses to maintain their operations. In doing so, it would threaten economic opportunities across Alaskan industries, from tech companies to local fishing, energy, and tourism businesses that keep our economy afloat. Among its many faults, the PRO Act would change the standard for determining when a business is known as a “joint employer”—essentially, when two or more businesses share certain responsibilities over the same worker. By expanding the standards used to determine joint employment, the PRO Act would add new costs and make it harder for businesses to work with contractors, subcontractors, as well as other businesses throughout the vendor-supplier chain. At the same time, the PRO Act would limit opportunities for Alaskan workers by taking a failed policy from California and applying it to the entire country in order to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. This could make it incredibly difficult for independent contractors to maintain that status as well as the freedom and flexibility they have come to enjoy along with it. It would also hurt consumers, businesses, and industries that rely on independent contractors to fulfill their needs. Worst of all for workers, the PRO Act would infringe on the freedom of choice and right to privacy during union-organizing efforts. It would remove the ability of workers to vote by secret ballot, instead of forcing them to sign union authorization cards directly in front of coworkers and union officials. And it would require employers to give union organizers access to their employees’ personal information, including home address and phone, without giving workers the choice to opt in or out. Both of these changes open up the potential for harassment of Alaskan workers. This bill is not about protecting workers’ right to organize at all; it is about giving unions more power to force unionization on the workplace. In the process, it would threaten local jobs, businesses, and the strength of our entire economy. The rights of Alaska workers and businesses, Senator Lisa Murkowski should oppose PRO Act.